Good ‘ol boy Winslow, data driven

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Before CoStar, before LoopNet, there was the Roddy Report.

The Roddy Report was a pioneer in commercial real estate information, launched in the late 1960s in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Winslow
John Winslow

John V. Winslow brought Roddy Report to Denver in 1974, a year after joining the company, which was created by Winslow’s brother, George Roddy.

“In the commercial real estate information game, if you look at the same guys who have been doing this the longest, I would say George and I are the most senior in terms of years in the business,” said the 66-year-old Winslow.

The publicly traded CoStar, for example, was founded in 1987. CoStar paid $860 million for LoopNet in 2011. LoopNet was founded in 1995.

Winslow’s brother continues to publish the Roddy Report from the Dallas area.

Winslow currently provides commercial real estate research for the Colorado Real Estate Journal, as well as using his institutional memory of the Denver area’s real estate scene to act as a consultant.

During his 42 years in the Denver area, Winslow also has been a commercial real estate broker, a real estate investor and an adjunct professor at the University of Denver’s Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management.

He has long been a “go-to” person for his unbiased knowledge of the market.

From 1990 to 1993, for example, he was quoted more than 50 times in the Rocky Mountain News.

He used to research a popular feature in the Rocky’s business page called “Who Owns the Block,” which tracked when and how much money people paid for individual parcels in downtown Denver.

Winslow isn’t all about real estate though.

He once took a year off to strum his guitar and sing in Denver coffeehouses.

“I did some country and western,” said the self-described good ol’ boy, who rode bulls and played football while growing up in Texas.

“But I primarily was a folk singer. Folk singing was my forte. I covered people like Bob Dylan and Gordon Lightfoot.”

He also wrote about 100 of his own songs and published a CD with 10 songs of his original material.

He never pursued trying to sell or market his songs to big stars, though.

“No, it was more of a hobby,” Winslow said. Winslow, a bit of a wallflower, who can’t read a note of music, but picks up tunes easily by ear, said performing did wonders for his confidence and speaking in public. That was especially true, he said, when he was teaching at DU from 2007 to 2009.

Despite more than four decades in the business, the 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound Winslow didn’t plan on going into commercial real estate.

Growing up, he had a fairly typical Texas upbringing for that time.

He rode motorcycles years before he had a driver’s license, played football and tried his hand at the rodeo.

“I was a terrible bull rider,” Winslow said. “It was just something you did.”

Something else he did was walk on as a football player while attending Texas Tech.

“I just wanted to see if I could make the team and I did,” he recalled.
He was a linebacker.
Years later, in Denver, he became a runner, completing three marathons.

“My running weight was probably around 205,” Winslow said. Running messed up his knees, which give him trouble to this day.

“When you are 200 pounds, running is a lot harder on your knees than if you are 140 or 150 pounds,” Winslow.

“But I wouldn’t trade those years of running for anything,” he added.

He initially started as a business major at Texas Tech, but later switched schools and his major.

He transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington, as a criminal justice major, with plans to become a policeman in Dallas.

He applied at the police force in 1970 and discovered he was color blind, dashing his hopes of becoming a cop.

Eventually, he got a degree in sociology from Texas Tech, after finishing his last few required courses at the University of Colorado Denver.

The Roddy Report, whose clients in Dallas included the likes of Trammell Crow, the Lincoln Property Co., (soon after it was founded by Mack Pogue) and the Henry S. Miller Co., wasn’t an overnight success in Denver.

“We came up here in July 1974 and we had this little executive suite office at 2124 S. Birch St.,” Winslow recalled.

“We came to Denver right in the middle of the recession in 1974.”

In order to drum up business, Winslow and his small staff would make cold calls and go door-to-door to downtown Denver real estate office buildings, pitching the product

“We literally were working 15-, 16-hour days,” Winslow said.

After pitching the product to commercial real estate companies and appraisers, “after about two years, it really took off,” he said.

But after a while, he was getting burned out on the information business and thought he would try his hand at selling real estate, an industry in which he thought he could make a good living, given his research background.

He also had developed a rapport with brokerage firms.

He would make presentations to commercial brokers at companies like Fuller and Co., Van Schaack and Grubb & Ellis.

He joined Moore Commercial in 1980.

“I interviewed at a few companies, but I really liked Bill Moore and Dick Dunn, the commercial real estate broker manager,” Winslow said.

After about three weeks at Moore Commercial, he made a cold call to a developer in Dallas who owned a one-story, 11,000-square-foot building on a 2-acre site in the Denver Tech Center.

When Winslow called, the two good ol’ boys from Texas hit it off, talking about high school football.

Winslow told him he thought he could sell the building for $1.3 million.

The owner said that sounded good to him and he gave Winslow the exclusive listing.

Winslow lined up a buyer from Calgary in Alberta, Canada, which agreed to pay the asking price.

But the Denver Tech Center ownership used its first right of refusal to buy back the land and building within 14 days of the offer.

The seller thought since the tech center bought it under its first right of refusal, he shouldn’t have to pay the commission.

“Luckily, Bill Moore had a great attorney” who fought back, Winslow said.

“I think the original commission was $91,000 and they settled on $85,000,” according to Winslow.

“I think after the attorney fees, my share of the commission was $38,000,” Winslow said.

“I had never made that much money before.”

In 1981, he had another interesting deal.

He sold 10 acres of land at Dry Creek Road and Interstate 25 to a once-prominent Denver developer named Stan Miles.

“It was a seven-way exchange” in what then was called a Starker exchange and today is called a 1031 exchange, a typical way of trading up on income-producing properties as a way to defer capital gains.

Miles paid $660,000.

“It was a pure spec deal,” Winslow said. “It is an amazing piece of property.”

Today, if the dirt was available, it probably would be worth “something like $30 per square foot,” or about $13 million, he estimated off the top of his head.

After four years at Moore Commercial, he joined another commercial real estate firm called Ambrose & Co.

By that time, he was specializing in selling properties along the southeast I-25 corridor.

At one point, he was showing a potential buyer several properties along the southeast corridor.

“He would point to a property and ask me who owns this? How much did he pay?”

After repeatedly telling the buyer he didn’t know, Winslow finally asked, “What did I know?” he recalled.

Winslow was pretty embarrassed, especially given his rich research background.

He took several months off and compiled a book considered the Bible of information along the southeast corridor.

It was as thick as an old-fashioned telephone directory and detailed the owner and the amount paid for every property in office parks like the Denver Tech Center, Inverness Business Park and Greenwood Plaza in Greenwood Village – and everything in between.

In 1986, he went back to work with his brother, George, as managing partner of the Roddy Report.

Winslow wasn’t a superstar broker, “But I held my own. I think I really missed the information business. I have a real passion for that.”

In 1991, he launched a full-service real estate company with another brother, who is his twin.

“We did brokerage, appraisals, tax appeals and research,” Winslow said.

In the mid-1990s, the market slowed and he parted ways with his brother and went to work for Bill James, who still runs a full-service real estate advisory service company in Denver.

“I also started playing gigs around that time and really enjoyed singing and performing in local coffeehouses,” he said.

That is when he decided to take a year off to focus on his music.

In 1997, he launched his own company, RealComp.

In 2004, he sold RealComp to CoStar.

About 2½ years ago, Winslow started to provide commercial real estate information to the Colorado Real Estate Journal as a third-party contractor.

“I absolutely love the information game,” Winslow said.

“People invariably like to know what is going on in the real estate market, so I think there will always be a demand for that information.”
During his career, he also bought and sold about 20 different parcels of properties.

“Timing is everything” when it comes to buying and selling properties, he said.

When he first came to Denver, a real estate veteran, who became one of his mentors, told him the secret to wealth was to buy properties in the Denver area “and never sell.”

Long-term holding of real estate, through the up and down cycles, is pretty good advice, Winslow believes.

“I think there is a lot to that philosophy,” he said.

“I probably sold properties I owned too early” in many cases, he said.

The boom in the Denver real estate market in recent years has exceeded anything he would have predicted, especially in the multifamily sector.

“The amount people are paying in rent today for the new luxury apartments is just incredible,” he said.

“What are young people doing that they can afford these kinds of rents?”

Monthly rents often exceed the mortgage payments for those fortunate enough to have owned a home in the Denver area for a number of years, he noted.

When not working, Winslow likes to hang out with his 14 grandchildren and his eight stepgrandchildren.

After his first marriage ended, he reconnected and married a woman he had known since he was in about the eighth grade.

“And I still love to pick up my guitar and put together a few tunes,” he said.

Featured in CREJ’s July 6-19 issue

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